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Tony Awards 2017: What to Expect

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• Four American dramas are competing for the best new play prize. The leading contenders are “Oslo,” and “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

The Tonys 2017 Coverage

Check out our live briefing, red carpet photos and more.

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The Tony Awards will be presented at Radio City Music Hall.

Credit
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Rule-breaking musicals lead the pack.

The theater world loves drama, and the Tony Awards ceremony promises plenty.

Unlike last year, when “Hamilton,” to no one’s surprise, dominated the show, the prizes this year are expected to be distributed among many contenders, reflecting a richly varied theater season with a whopping 13 new musicals and 10 new plays.

Two unexpectedly crowd-pleasing musicals, “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Come From Away,” have rocketed to the top of the competition, despite breaking many of the rules of contemporary Broadway — neither show is adapted from a film or features a celebrity, and both shows have daunting plot points (a teen suicide in “Dear Evan Hansen” and a terrorist attack in “Come From Away”). But both are succeeding, encouraging Broadway boosters who want to believe that original musicals can still thrive on the strength of emotional punch and writerly skill.

The two shows are also, in different ways, quite of the moment. “Dear Evan Hansen,” about an adolescent with social anxiety whose life changes after a classmate kills himself, explores the ways in which social media amplifies and distorts communication and community. And “Come From Away,” about the Canadian hospitality extended to global air travelers diverted to Newfoundland on Sept. 11, 2001, presents a positive view of encounters between people of different cultures that many theatergoers are welcoming as an alternative to the defensive posture toward foreigners that they associate with the Trump administration.

The awards are determined by 839 voters — producers, investors, performers, directors, designers and others who work in the theater world. The ballots were due at 6 p.m. Friday.

The new-musical contest is especially important because a win can have a significant impact on ticket sales. Unlike the Oscars, which come after most of the contending movies have concluded their box-office runs, the Tonys come early in the life of most stage shows. And the broadcast is important to the industry because the songs performed on the television show offer a chance to market both the individual musicals and Broadway itself.

The broadcast, which begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time at Radio City Music Hall, is scheduled to last three hours. The Tonys, formally called the Antoinette Perry Awards, are presented by the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing.

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Jenn Colella, left, in the musical “Come From Away.”

Credit
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Yes there will be songs. Plenty of them.

The evening’s host, Kevin Spacey, is an unusual choice for an awards show — unlike many of his predecessors (James Corden, Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman), he is not known as a song-and-dance man. Rather, this two-time Oscar winner has been a riveting television presence portraying ane underhanded United States president, Francis Underwood, in “House of Cards” on Netflix.

But Mr. Spacey is not one to shy away from a song; he starred in the Bobby Darin biopic “Beyond the Sea” and has accompanied Billy Joel in concert. He is planning to open and close the Tony Awards with song (joined, in the end, by a beloved Broadway performer, Patti LuPone).

The broadcast will feature numbers from the four shows nominated for best new musical — “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Groundhog Day,” and the season’s most-nominated show, “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” as well as from the three nominated for best musical revival, “Falsettos,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “Miss Saigon.” Two other new musicals have been invited to perform slightly shorter selections on the broadcast: “Bandstand” and “War Paint.”

Bette Midler, arguably the best-known star of the theater season, is not expected to sing; the producer of “Hello, Dolly!” opted instead to have her co-star, David Hyde Pierce, perform a song from the show. But Ms. Midler is expected to present an award on the broadcast.

Among those who will be performing are two of last year’s Tony winners, Cynthia Erivo (“The Color Purple”) and Leslie Odom Jr. (“Hamilton”) as well as Radio City’s best-known troupe, the Rockettes. And there will be plenty of familiar names appearing, including the nominees Sally Field and Josh Groban, as well as Glenn Close, Tina Fey, Taraji P. Henson, Scarlett Johansson, John Legend and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

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Ben Platt, center, the star of “Dear Evan Hansen,” is nominated for a Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Musical.

Credit
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

A young star is likely to be crowned.

Among those expected to win Tony Awards are Ms. Midler, Kevin Kline (for his performance in a revival of “Present Laughter”), Ben Platt (the star of “Dear Evan Hansen”) and Laurie Metcalf (for “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”)

The awards are all significant. For Ms. Midler, who first performed on Broadway in 1967, when she joined the replacement cast of “Fiddler on the Roof,” this would be the first Tony in a competitive category (she won a special Tony in 1974, “for adding luster to the Broadway season.”) For Mr. Kline, it would be a third Tony — he won in 1978 for “On the Twentieth Century,” and in 1981 for “The Pirates of Penzance.”

For Mr. Platt, who is all of 23 years old, the award would be remarkable recognition for a remarkable performance — his characterization of an awkward adolescent, with an array of tics and an astonishing nightly outpouring of emotion, has wowed critics and audiences. And Ms. Metcalf, probably best known for her Emmy-winning work on television’s “Roseanne,” is one of the great contemporary stage actresses, but has not previously won a Tony.

Watch for “Hello, Dolly!” to win for best musical revival, and consider “Jitney” the favorite for best play revival. The competition for best new play, however, is too close to call: The leading contenders are “Oslo” and “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

Although many Tony nominees will be nervously awaiting the announcement of winners Sunday night, there are a handful who are guaranteed awards. James Earl Jones — the voice of Darth Vader, and so much more — is getting a special Tony for lifetime achievement in theater. The sound designers Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin will receive special Tonys for their work on “The Encounter,” an audio-rich show that starred Simon McBurney. The Dallas Theater Center is getting the regional theater Tony; the director/choreographer Baayork Lee is getting the Isabelle Stevenson award for volunteerism; and the general managers Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser are getting Tony honors for excellence in the theater.

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